Thursday, May 2, 2013

GLOBAL PLAGUES & PESTILENCES ALERT: An "Appalling Irresponsibility" - Senior Scientists Express Alarm, Attacking Chinese Researchers For Creating New Strains Of Influenza Virus In Veterinary Lab; This Could Cause A Global Pandemic Killing Millions Of People! UPDATE: China Reports 27th Death From H7N9 Bird Flu!

May 02, 2013 - CHINA - Senior scientists have criticised the “appalling irresponsibility” of researchers in China who have deliberately created new strains of influenza virus in a veterinary laboratory. They warned there is a danger that the new viral strains created by mixing bird-flu virus with human influenza could escape from the laboratory to cause a global pandemic killing millions of people.

Chinese Scientists Create New Mutant Bird-Flu Virus.
Colorized transmission electron micrograph of avian influenza A H5N1 viruses (seen in gold) grown in Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells (seen in green)

Lord May of Oxford, a former government chief scientist and past president of the Royal Society, denounced the study published today in the journal Science as doing nothing to further the understanding and prevention of flu pandemics. “They claim they are doing this to help develop vaccines and such like. In fact the real reason is that they are driven by blind ambition with no common sense whatsoever,” Lord May told The Independent.

“The record of containment in labs like this is not reassuring. They are taking it upon themselves to create human-to-human transmission of very dangerous viruses. It’s appallingly irresponsible,” he said. The controversial study into viral mixing was carried out by a team led by Professor Hualan Chen, director of China’s National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory at Harbin Veterinary Research Institute.

Professor Chen and her colleagues deliberately mixed the H5N1 bird-flu virus, which is highly lethal but not easily transmitted between people, with a 2009 strain of H1N1 flu virus, which is very infectious to humans. When flu viruses come together by infecting the same cell they can swap genetic material and produce “hybrids” through the re-assortment of genes. The researchers were trying to emulate what happens in nature when animals such as pigs are co-infected with two different strains of virus, Professor Chen said.

“The studies demonstrated that H5N1 viruses have the potential to acquire mammalian transmissibility by re-assortment with the human influenza viruses,” Professor Chen said in an email. “This tells us that high attention should be paid to monitor the emergence of such mammalian-transmissible virus in nature to prevent a possible pandemic caused by H5N1 virus,” she said.

“It is difficult to say how easy this will happen, but since the H5N1 and 2009/H1N1 viruses are widely existing in nature, they may have a chance to re-assort,” she added. The study, which was carried out in a laboratory with the second highest security level to prevent accidental escape, resulted in 127 different viral hybrids between H5N1 and H1N1, five of which were able to pass by airborne transmission between laboratory guinea pigs.

Professor Simon Wain-Hobson, an eminent virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said it is very likely that some or all of these hybrids could pass easily between humans and possess some or all of the highly lethal characteristics of H5N1 bird-flu. “Nobody can extrapolate to humans except to conclude that the five viruses would probably transmit reasonable well between humans,” Professor Wain-Hobson said.

“We don’t know the pathogenicity [lethality] in man and hopefully we will never know. But if the case fatality rate was between 0.1 and 20 per cent, and a pandemic affected 500 million people, you could estimate anything between 500,000 and 100 million deaths,” he said. “It’s a fabulous piece of virology by the Chinese group and it’s very impressive, but they haven’t been thinking clearly about what they are doing. It’s very worrying,” Professor Wain-Hobson said.

“The virological basis of this work is not strong. It is of no use for vaccine development and the benefit in terms of surveillance for new flu viruses is oversold,” he added. An increasing number of scientists outside the influenza field have expressed concern over attempts to deliberately increase the human transmissibility of the H5N1 bird-flu virus. This is done by mutating the virus so that it can pass by airborne droplets between laboratory ferrets, the standard “animal model” of human influenza.

Two previous studies, by Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam and Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, caused uproar in 2011 when it emerged that they had created airborne versions of H5N1 that could be passed between ferrets.  The criticism led to researchers to impose a voluntary moratorium on their H5N1 research, banning transmission studies using ferrets. However they decided to lift the ban earlier this year, arguing that they have now consulted widely with health organisations and the public over safety concerns. However, other scientists have criticised the decision to lift the moratorium. - Independent.

H5N1 Hybrid Viruses.
Guinea pigs used in experiments to test the virulence of engineered H5N1 influenza strains.
Image: Zhang et al./Science

In nature, some strains of the influenza virus are highly lethal while others jump easily from person to person. What public health officials fear most is a hybrid that combines the lethality of one with the transmissibility of the other, creating a deadly global pandemic. Now a team of Chinese scientists has investigated that in their lab by creating a new hybrid virus. They combined H5N1 avian influenza, which is highly lethal but doesn’t transmit easily between people, with the highly contagious H1N1 swine flu strain responsible for infecting tens of millions of people in 2009.

The new hybrid virus passed easily between guinea pigs, which are used to study how flu infects mammals. Molecular changes in the virus may provide clues of what to look for in circulating H5N1 strains, perhaps allowing scientists to anticipate when viruses will more easily infect humans. “Mammalian-transmissible H5N1 viruses can be generated in nature,” said virologist Chen Hualan at China’s Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, who led the research team. “High attention should be paid during routine influenza surveillance to monitor such high risk H5N1 hybrid viruses in nature.”

The experiments, described May 2 in Science, reflect a controversial approach to studying influenza: attempting to create strains in a lab that would, if accidentally released or used for nefarious purposes, pose a potentially global health threat. Some scientists think the risks don’t outweigh the benefits, and that institutional safeguards don’t sufficiently reduce chances of accidents. Public unease with such experiments resulted in a year-long moratorium on the research.

According to microbiologist Richard Ebright of Rutgers University, a prominent critic of the work, the new study shows little that wasn’t revealed by an H5N1 experiment published in March by one of the research teams that originally sparked the controversy. That study, led by virologist Ron Fouchier of Erasmus University in the Netherlands, also showed how H5N1 could become more transmissible in mammals.

“The sole major difference is the use of guinea pigs in this paper and ferrets in that paper,” said Ebright. “In my assessment, neither paper contains substantive new information that justifies the risks posed by the research.”  Hulan’s next research focus is to study the array of genetic changes that allowed his H5N1 strains to infect guinea pigs, perhaps understanding the specific molecular and physiological mechanisms that help particles of flu virus latch onto respiratory cells.

That might give researchers clues about how to interfere with that process, or at least a heads-up on what type of changes to look for in flu strains evolving now in the wild.  “The important thing is that insights from such studies will benefit disease control and prevention,” Hualan said. Both she and Ebright agreed, however, that mutations seen in the laboratory may be different from the evolutionary paths taken by influenza in the wild. - WIRED.

China Reports 27th Death From H7N9 Bird Flu.

The death toll from the H7N9 bird flu virus has risen to 27, state media said Thursday after a man died in central China's Hunan Province. The 55-year-old whose surname was given as Jiao died on Wednesday after receiving medical treatment, state news agency Xinhua said, citing local authorities. More than 120 people have been diagnosed with the virus since it was first reported in late March, with most cases confined to eastern China.

The only one reported outside the mainland has been in Taiwan. That victim was infected in China, but led to Asian countries urging renewed vigilance against the virus. Experts fear the possibility of the virus mutating into a form easily transmissible between humans, with the potential to trigger a pandemic.

The World Health Organization has said so far there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission but warned H7N9 is "one of the most lethal" influenza viruses ever seen, and urged travelers against contact with live poultry.  Chinese researchers, reporting in The Lancet a week ago, said they had confirmed poultry as a source of the virus.

Chinese health officials have acknowledged so-called "family clusters", where members of a single family have become infected, but have not established any confirmed instances of human-to-human transmission. Most of the cases reported have not yet resulted in death, and some patients have been discharged from hospital after apparently recovering.

China confirmed 19 new cases of the virus in the week leading up to May 1, Xinhua said.  But the number new cases in Shanghai has seen a "dramatic slowdown", Nancy Cox, director of the influenza division at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week, describing the slowdown as "very encouraging". - ABS-CBN.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Global Volcano Report For May 02, 2013 - Updates On Stromboli, Etna, Bagana, Dukono, Ambrym, Popocatépetl, Fuego, Galeras, Nevado del Ruiz, Cumbal, Reventador, Tungurahua And Heard!

May 02, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe.

Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): Lava continues to intermittently flow over and out of vents at the rim and the base of the NE crater. Yesterday, the active flow front had reached about half way down the Sciara, local guides reported.

Thermal webcam image of the crater area of Stromboli (INGV).

Today, tremor has decreased again a bit, but overflows remain active at least in the upper parts of the slope. Relatively large explosions and near-constant rockfalls on the Sciara continue during the whole time.

Etna (Sicily, Italy): After 3 days of quiet, strombolian activity has resumed at the New SE crater yesterday. This has been accompanied by a rise of the tremor signal. Most likely, Etna is preparing again for yet another paroxysm in the near future.

Tremor signal (ESLN station, INGV).

Bagana (Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea): Heightened activity continues at Bagana. The latest NOAA satellite data reveal a significant plume of SO2 from the volcano.

SO2 plume from Bagana today (NOAA).

Dukono (Halmahera): An unusually large SO2 plume from Dukono suggests the volcano, in semi-permanent strombolian-type eruption for many years, is currently in a phase of elevated activity.

SO2 plume from Dukono (NOAA).

Ambrym (Vanuatu): A SO2 plume is howering over Ambrym island, suggesting that the lava lakes continue to be active. Our next group going there next week will hopefully be able to confirm this by direct observation.

SO2 from Ambrym today (NOAA).

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Activity has remained low, with only about 1 weak emission of mainly steam per hour. Glow at the summit continues to be seen at night.

Fuego (Guatemala): Activity has decreased - the lava flows stopped being alimented yesterday and the explosive activity has become weaker. Different from previous eruptive phases, this time, it did not culminate in a paroxysmal eruption.

Galeras (Colombia): Activity (seismic and at the surface) has recently calmed down at the volcano.

Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia): More earthquakes have occurred at shallow depth beneath the volcano, including a magnitude 2.6 quake yesterday noon (local time) at 5 km NE beneath the Arenas crater, as well as some larger events later at night (no updates from Manizales observatory yet, though). The seismic swarm continues.

Seismic signal from Ruiz this morning (OLL station, INGEOMINAS).

Cumbal (Colombia): Pasto observatory reported an increase in seismic activity during the past week, with many small volcanic-tectonic quakes u to magnitudes of 2.6 at varying depths of up to 20 km underneath of La Plazuela crater on the northern sector of the volcanic complex.

Reventador (Ecuador): Last night, emissions of steam and some ash produced a column rising bout 1 km above the crater.

Tungurahua (Ecuador): Activity remains at moderate levels. Steam andash emissions produce plumes rising about 2 km from the crater, and occasional stronger explosions with cannon-shot noises can be heard (rarely seen) ejecting blocks that fall onto the outer upper slopes and tumble downhill.

Seismic signal from Ruiz this morning (OLL station, INGEOMINAS).
Continuous volcanic tremor can be seen on the seismic recordings.

Heard (Australia, Southern Indian Ocean): Effusive eruptive activity at the remote volcano continues. A recent satellite picture shows a new lava flow on the SW flank of Mawson Peak. A MODIS hot spot is visible as well.

NASA Earth Observatory image of Hear Island on 20 April 2013 by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon.

Starting in October 2012, satellites measured subtle signals that suggested volcanic activity on remote Heard Island. The recent satellite images (NASA Earth Observatory) have now provided proof of an eruption otherwise likely undetected... [read more]

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for May 2, 2013.

- Volcano Discovery.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Tracking Developments At The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole - Minor Earthquakes Detected By Other Salt Caverns Near Sinkhole!

May 02, 2013 - UNITED STATES - According to Gary Hecox, the CB&I hydrogeologist, the seismic array has been updated at the giant Louisiana sinkhole. "The initial seismic data, what we’re finding — the locations of all the micro-earthquakes have been recorded — as you can expect, most of the micro-earthquakes have been located around the Oxy 3 cavern and in the salt. We do have some minor earthquakes out away from that in the vicinity of the other caverns."

Hecox made these revelations at a public briefing on the sinkhole on Wednesday, May 1st, at the Assumption Parish Community Centre.

Watch the entire community briefing in the following videos, made courtesy of the Assumption Parish Police Jury.

WATCH:  Part 1.

WATCH:  Part 2.

WATCH:  Part 3.

WATCH:  Part 4.

WATCH:  Part 5.

WATCH:  Part 6.

WATCH:  Part 7.

WATCH:  Part 8.

WATCH:  Part 9.

WATCH:  Part 10.

WATCH:  Part 11.

WATCH:  Part 12.

WATCH:  Part 13.

WATCH:  Part 14.

WAR DRUMS: China Invades India - Tensions Mount As Platoon Of Soldiers Slip Across Border To Claim Disputed Territory! UPDATE: Chinese Military Planes Flew Near Disputed Isles Near Japan 40 Times In One Day!

May 02, 2013 - INDIA - A two week Chinese incursion has left India on the verge of crises, it has today been reported.  India says Chinese troops set up a camp on its side of the ill-defined frontier in Ladakh region in the middle of April.  The platoon of Chinese soldiers slipped across the boundary into India in the middle of the night, according to Indian officials. 

Activists of India's right-wing Shiv Sena, shout anti-China slogans and burn a Chinese flag during a protest against an alleged Chinese incursion. India says Chinese troops set up a camp on its side of the ill-defined frontier in Ladakh region.

They were ferried across the bitterly cold moonscape in Chinese army vehicles, then got out to traverse a dry creek bed with a helicopter hovering overhead for protection.   They finally reached their destination and pitched a tent in the barren Depsang Valley in the Ladakh region, a symbolic claim of sovereignty deep inside Indian-held territory.  So stealthy was the operation that India did not discover the incursion until a day later, Indian officials said.  

The platoon of Chinese soldiers slipped across the boundary into India in the middle of the night, according to Indian officials.

China denies any incursion, but Indian officials say that for two weeks, the soldiers have refused to move back over the so-called Line of Actual Control that divides Indian-ruled territory from Chinese-run land, leaving the government on the verge of a crisis with its powerful northeastern neighbor.   Indian officials fear that if they react with force, the face-off could escalate into a battle with the feared People's Liberation Army. But doing nothing would leave a Chinese outpost deep in territory India has ruled since independence.   'If they have come 19 kilometres into India, it is not a minor LAC violation. It is a deliberate military operation. And even as India protests, more tents have come up,' said Sujit Dutta, a China specialist at the Jamia Milia Islamia university in New Delhi.   'Clearly, the Chinese are testing India to see how far they can go,' he said.   That is not China's stated view.  

Activists of the right-winged student's organization Akhila Bharatiya Vidya Parishad (ABVP) burn an effigy representing China. China denies any incursion, but Indian officials say that for two weeks, the soldiers have refused to move back over the so-called Line of Actual Control.

'China strictly complies with the treaty and documents on maintaining peace and stability in the border region between India and China,' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said last week.   'The Chinese patrol troops did not go across the Line of Actual Control, not by even one step," she said.   Local army commanders from both sides have held three meetings over the crisis, according to Indian officials. India's foreign secretary called in the Chinese ambassador to register a strong protest.  Yet the troops did not move, and even pitched a second tent, Indian officials said.   The timing of the crisis, weeks before Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is to visit India, has surprised many here.  The Chinese leader's decision to make India his first trip abroad since taking office two months ago had been seen as an important gesture toward strengthening ties between rival powers that have longstanding border disputes but also growing trade relations.  

It is claimed Chinese soldiers have pitched in the barren Depsang Valley in the Ladakh region, a symbolic claim of sovereignty deep inside Indian-held territory.

Manoj Joshi, a defense analyst at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, said the timing of the incursion raises questions about 'whether there is infighting within the Chinese leadership, or whether someone is trying to upstage Li.'  India's External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said Wednesday that while he had no plans to cancel a trip to Beijing next week to prepare for Li's visit, the government could reconsider in the coming week.   'A week is a long time in politics,' he told reporters.   Indian politicians accused the scandal-plagued government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of floundering in fear before China.   'China realizes that India has a weak government, and a prime minister who is powerless,' said Yashwant Sinha, a former foreign minister from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.   He demanded a stronger response. 'A bully will back off the moment it realizes that it's dealing with a country which will not submit to its will,' Sinha said.   Former Defense Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav called the government  'cowardly and incompetent.'  He warned that China was trying to annex more territory to add to the spoils it took following its victory over India in a brief 1962 border war.   Defense Minister A.K. Antony countered that India is 'united in its commitment to take every possible step to safeguard our interests.'  Supporters of the right-wing Shiv Sena party burned effigies of Singh, Antony and other top officials Wednesday, demanding India retaliate by barring Chinese imports.  

China is India's biggest trading partner, with bilateral trade, heavily skewed in China's favor, crossing $75 billion in 2011.   Analysts feel linking a troop withdrawal to continued trade could work.   'The Chinese have to learn that such aggression cannot be delinked from trade,' said Dutta.   Though the two countries have held 15 rounds of talks, their border disputes remain unresolved. India says China is occupying 38,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles) in the Aksai Chin plateau in the western Himalayas, while China claims around 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles) in India's northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh.   Analysts said they were baffled by Beijing's motives, since its actions could force India to move closer to Beijing's biggest rival, the United States.   'The Chinese for some reason don't seem able to see that,' said Joshi.   China's aggressive posture could also force India to accelerate its own military modernization program, analysts said.   The stand-off may eventually be resolved diplomatically, 'but what it really shows is the PLA's contempt for our military capability,' former Indian navy chief, Sushil Kumar, wrote in The Indian Express newspaper.   It could also push the government to agree to the army's longstanding demand to create its own strike corps on the border.   'By needling the Indians, they are helping us to accelerate our modernization,' Joshi said. - Daily Mail.

UPDATE: Chinese Military Planes Flew Near Disputed Isles Near Japan 40 Times In One Day.
Chinese military planes, mostly fighter jets, made more than 40 flights close to Tokyo-controlled islands at the center of a territorial dispute on a single day this week, a press report said Saturday.

The flights took place on Tuesday, when eight Chinese marine surveillance ships entered the 12-nautical-mile territorial zone off the islands in the East China Sea, which Japan calls the Senkakus and China calls the Diaoyus, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported.

The conservative daily, citing senior government officials, said F-15 fighter planes from an airbase on the Japanese island of Okinawa scrambled to intercept the Chinese aircraft which flew in waves toward the skies over the islands.

“It was an unprecedented threat,” one of the officials was quoted as saying.

Another said: “If such a show of force continues, it is feared it could lead to a situation where the (Japanese) air defense force may not be able to cope.”

The report said the military planes included updated Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 fighter aircraft.

The report, which did not say whether the planes intruded into Japan’s airspace, could not be immediately confirmed by Japan’s Defense Ministry.

Chinese government ships have frequently sailed around the five Tokyo-controlled islands in recent months sparking diplomatic clashes.

But Tuesday’s flotilla was the biggest to sail into the disputed waters in a single day since Tokyo nationalised part of the island chain in September.

On Dec 13, a Y-12 turbo-prop plane from China’s State Oceanic Administration breached airspace over the disputed islands, prompting the launch of Japanese F-15s.

It was the first known incursion ever by a Chinese plane into Japanese airspace, the government said at the time. - Japan Today.

EXTREME WEATHER: The "Huge Fire Monsters" - California Firefighters Battle Combined 9,500-Acre Wildfires In Ventura County And Riverside County!

May 02, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A brush-fueled wildfire in California that sparked to life early Thursday grew to more than 6,500 acres -- 10 square miles -- in Ventura County by late afternoon, prompting deep concern among homeowners, NBC Los Angeles reported.

Meanwhile, hundreds of firefighters battling a wind-lashed 3,000-acre wildfire in Riverside County were beginning to gain control of a blaze that consumed one home and led to the evacuation of hundreds of others.

The Ventura County fire, near the city of Camarillo, Calif., started at about 6:34 a.m. local time, Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Bill Nash told NBC News. Firefighters assisted by bulldozers, helicopters and air tankers struggled to reach the brushfire in the rocky terrain.

Live television pictures late Thursday showed some homes and agricultural buildings engulfed in flames and massive plumes of smoke rising above the burn zone. Fire officials on the scene reported no injuries.

Residents in the Dos Vientos area were ordered to evacuate at about 9:45 a.m. local time on Thursday, according to the Ventura County Sheriff's Office. Fire officials told residents they could return home shortly after 6:30 p.m. local time.

The fire continued to spread throughout the day. More than 600 firefighters were called to the blaze, and the Ventura Freeway was shut down as firefighters streamed into the area, the county's fire department reported.

"We have conditions that are very dramatic, very dangerous for firefighters. This fire is growing," Tom Kruschke, an information officer with the Ventura County Fire Department told NBC L.A..

According to the Los Angeles Times, the fire burned down a storage facility at a strawberry and raspberry farm in Camarillo and charred hills surrounding the campus of Cal State Channel Islands, which canceled classes the rest of the week.

Camarillo is about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Camarillo resident Zeke Jaquez, who spoke to NBC L.A., called 911 to report what would become known as the Springs Fire.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s this huge monster,” Jaquez said.

By late evening, fire officials reported the Springs Fire was 10 percent contained.

The Riverside County fire, dubbed the Summit Fire, remained at about 2,950 acres late Thursday after growing overnight. Firefighters worked to improve containment lines around the raging blaze that threatened homes on Wednesday. The fire was about 40 percent contained by midday Thursday, according to a Riverside County Fire Department incident report.

Two firefighters sustained non-life-threatening injuries while battling the blaze, according to the report. Residents in the area were asked to use caution when driving through the area and not travel down barricaded roadways.

WATCH: The fires become especially dangerous when tree cover is dry and Santa Anna winds gust at high speeds, creating a wake-up call for everyone in California to be prepared. NBC's Mike Taibbi reports.

No rain is in the forecast, and gusty winds are expected to continue through the weekend, said Weather Channel meteorologist Tom Moore. Winds of 25 to 30 miles per hour were expected throughout the day with gusts up to 60 to 70 miles per hour, Moore said.

“It’s moving forward, and we’re trying to get ahead of it,” Riverside County Fire Department Battalion Chief Julie Hutchinson told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

The Summit Fire is about 85 miles east of Los Angeles.

"The grass, brush and trees are very volatile. They're ready to burn," Hutchinson said. "Everything is just very dry. And not just in Southern California. Statewide."

More than four hundred firefighters with the help of 46 engine companies, six helicopters and six air tankers fought to contain the fire on Wednesday night. The fire had a “slow rate of spread” as of 8:50 p.m. local time on Wednesday, according to a fire department incident report.

The fire in Riverside County was first reported at 12:38 p.m. local time on Wednesday. About 700 people fled their homes for shelters when evacuations were imposed, NBC Los Angeles reported. Evacuation orders were lifted as of 8 p.m., fire officials said.

“When the fires up here go, they go quick, and you got to save yourself. That’s the first thing, preservation of yourself,” Joe Kiener, a resident who lost his home, told NBC Los Angeles. “I don’t think I have anything other than what’s on my back.”

Resident David Pena said his house nearly went up in flames until a shift in the wind.

“It was close! God’s grace, man. It’s a miracle,” Pena told the Press-Enterprise.

WATCH: The Summit fire near Palm Springs, Calif., has scorched about 3,000 acres, and while firefighter crews have made progress along the front lines, they are concerned about winds. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.

Air quality regulators in the area issued a warning for the area around Banning, Calif., on Wednesday, saying that residents should “exercise caution and avoid unnecessary outdoor activities in any area directly impacted by smoke.”

Two hundred families in a mobile home park were evacuated before being allowed back into their homes around 8 p.m., according to NBC Los Angeles.

A third major wildfire, designated the Panther Fire, was burning in rugged timberland in Northern California -- in Tehama County about 30 miles east of Chico.

Gusty down-canyon winds were driving the 7,000-acre blaze, according to a Cal Fire incident report. It was 10 percent contained on Thursday morning, the last report.

Nearly 500 firefighters were on the Panther Fire, which had not yet threatened homes or roads. - NBC News.

WAR DRUMS: The Syrian Crisis - In A First, Russian Warship Docks In Israel!

May 02, 2013 - ISRAEL - Russia’s large landing ship Azov entered the Israeli port of Haifa on Wednesday, marking the first time a Russian warship calls at an Israeli port.

Azov will stay in Haifa until Friday to resupply and allow the crew to rest, a spokesman for the Russian Navy said.

In a First, a Russian Warship Docks in Israel.

City residents will also be allowed on board for a guided tour and treated to performances by the Black Sea Fleet orchestra reinforced by marines.

Azov is part of Russia’s task force in the Mediterranean, which is due to perform exercises off the coast of war-torn Syria, Captain Alexei Komarov, who heads the landing ship unit of the Black Sea Fleet, told journalists in Haifa.

He did not give a date for the exercises, but said the task force is prepared to evacuate Russian citizens from Syria, though no such order was given so far.

Russia currently has six ships in the Mediterranean, including the Azov, which made frequent trips to the region before, calling at the Russian resupply base in the Syrian city of Tartus.

Another six ships of the Pacific Fleet are on the way to the Mediterranean and expected to join the task force later this month.

Various expert estimates put the Russian diaspora in Syria at anywhere between 5,000 and 100,000, the majority of them women who married into Syrian families. Russia evacuated 77 of its citizens by bus in January. - RIA Novosti.

WATCH: Israel increasingly worried about Syria.

WATCH:  Israel gets 5th nuke-ready sub, 'arms race in Middle East ongoing'.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Saudi Arabia Says Five Dead From New SARS-Like Virus!

May 02, 2013 - SAUDI ARABIA - Saudi Arabia said five more people have died of a deadly new virus from the same family as SARS, and two other people were in intensive care.

The new virus is not the same as SARS, but similar to it and also to other coronaviruses found in bats. (Reuters)

The seven cases were discovered in al-Ahsa governorate in the Eastern Province, the Saudi news agency SPA quoted the Saudi Health Ministry as saying in a statement late on Wednesday.

A Saudi man died in March from the virus.

The novel coronavirus (NCoV) is from the same family of viruses as those that cause common colds and the one that caused the deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that first emerged in Asia in 2003.

The new virus is not the same as SARS, but similar to it and also to other coronaviruses found in bats. It was unknown in humans until it emerged in the Middle East last year. There have been confirmed cases in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Britain.
Research by scientists in Europe has found that NCoV is well adapted to infecting humans and may be treatable with medicines similar to the ones used for SARS, which killed a tenth of the 8,000 people it infected.

In a March 26 update on its website the World Health Organization (WHO) said it had been informed of a global total of 17 confirmed cases of human infection with NCoV, including 11 deaths.

The Geneva-based WHO said it was monitoring the situation closely and urged its member states to continue surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections and to carefully review any unusual patterns.

“WHO is currently working with international experts and countries where cases have been reported to assess the situation and review recommendations for surveillance and monitoring,” it said, adding that national authorities should “promptly assess and notify” it of any new NCoV cases. - Al Arabiya.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: Ice Age Now - Over 100,000 Animals Killed By Big Freeze And Snowfall In Wales, Scotland And England!

May 02, 2013 - UNITED KINGDOM - The death toll for stock killed during the freezing winter and early spring weather has hit 100,000 and is still rising, the National Fallen Stock Company (NFSCo) has said.

The NFSCo figures show 64,000 more animals died on farms in England, Scotland and Wales between January and April 2013 compared with the same period 12 months ago. It is a rise in deaths of more than 24%.

In addition to this, Northern Ireland recorded stock losses of 29,000 in the blizzards at the end of March. A further 8,000 animals died on the Isle of Man, taking the toll to 101,000 animals over the four-month period.

A statement released by NFSCo pointed out that the figures excluded animals collected privately and those categorised as "special services" by collectors.

Special service operations are carried out by collectors where losses are more numerous than normal, the NFSCo statement said.

"Consequently the figures here will be a minimum, and will increase as new data is received," it warned.

The toll

  • English, Scottish and Welsh sheep losses in April were 50% higher than April 2012 costing 35,000 extra lives
  • Welsh cattle losses in April were more than double 2012's equivalent to almost 2,700 head
  • Cattle losses in England and Scotland in April were about a quarter more than 2012 (23% and 25% to 13,800 and 9,700 head respectively)
  • Cattle losses for England, Scotland and Wales were up 34% and more than 7,000.
- Farmers Weekly.

ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Across The World - Ireland Experiences The Coldest April In 24 Years In Some Areas!

May 02, 2013 - IRELAND - Last month was the coldest April for 24 years in the north and west of the country as the exceptionally cold spring continues.

Temperatures at stations in the north and west were over 1.5 degrees below average. Mullingar in Co Westmeath and Sherkin Island in Co Cork recorded their coldest April since 1989, as did coastal stations in the north and west.

April’s values follow on from one of the coldest months of March for 50 years. Above, dead lambs lie in the snow as farmers search for trapped sheep in snow drifts in the Aughafatten area of Co Antrim on March 26th last. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

Knock, with an average April temperature of just 6.2 degrees, had its coldest April since 2001. Most weather stations recorded temperatures at least a degree below normal.

The night of April 6th brought the coldest temperatures ever recorded in April at Dublin Airport (minus 5.6 degrees) and Mullingar (minus 6.6 degrees). Gurteen in Co Sligo recorded a grass minimum temperature of minus 11.4 degree on the same night.

Exceptionally windy

It was also exceptionally windy. The monthly mean wind speeds at Dublin Airport at 12.9 knots was the highest since 1950. At Cork Airport it was 12.7 knots, the highest since 1985.

April’s values follow on from one of the coldest months of March for 50 years. Easterly and northeasterly airflows have persisted from the middle of February into the first week of April, making it, to date, one of the coldest springs since records began. Temperatures in March were 3 degrees below normal in most places.

IFA president John Bryan said farmers were now grappling with the “longest winter on record” following from a “terribly wet summer” last year.

The IFA and agribusinesses have organised a €1 million fund to source 3,000 tonnes of top quality hay in France which will be brought into the country next week.

“There is huge pressure as the cold weather and the low temperatures have lasted into May,” Mr Bryan said on Morning Ireland. “The temperatures have not risen and the crisis continues. There’s another two to three weeks of this crisis.”

He said grass growth normally starts just after St Patrick’s Day in the south of the country, spreading to other areas, but grass growth has only begun in the south now, six weeks late. - Irish Times.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Dead Carps Turn Up At Pipestem Reservoir, North Dakota, America?!

May 02, 2013 - UNITED STATES Dead carp along the shores of Pipestem Reservoir may confirm officials’ fear that the lake suffered a winter kill.

North Dakota Game and Fish Department officials had speculated in early April that a lack of oxygen in the water could cause a winter kill in the lake.

The low oxygen levels were likely caused by the decay of vegetation washed into the lake during previous high water events, according to Gene van Eeckhout, fisheries biologist who spoke on the topic during an April 10, meeting of agencies associated with the James River basin. Releases from the bottom of the lake began on April 2, in an effort to improve water quality.

“So far we’re finding them on the west end of the reservoir,” said Brandon Kratz, district fisheries biologist for the Game and Fish Department. “None have been found in the mid-lake or near the dam. It is possible we will find fish there as the water warms.”

Kratz said the bulk of the dead fish were the common carp with a few game fish in the mix. He said wind action was controlling where the carp washed ashore. Some areas had as few as one dead fish every 50 feet while other areas had far greater numbers.

Examinations of the dead fish indicate some had died earlier in the winter under the ice while others died recently, Kratz said. Some of the most recent carp showed flared gills held open and away from the body.

“Fish with flared gills are a typical sign of an oxygen issue in the water,” he said. “Fish that died earlier start to decay and the muscles relax and the gills go back into place.”

Kratz said carp are more tolerant of low oxygen levels in the water than the game fish species. Only bullheads and flathead minnows can survive worse water conditions. Kratz would not speculate on why mostly carp had been found so far.

Officials plan to continue to monitor the lake. Ice still remains on part of the lake near the dam. As that ice goes out and the water temperatures increase in the deeper water, more dead fish are expected to float to the surface.

In addition to shoreline surveys, the Game and Fish Department plans to do survey netting in the next two weeks, depending on weather and ice conditions. The survey netting is used to estimate fish populations for all species in the lake.

Fish population estimates are used to determine future lake management efforts including stocking levels. - The Jamestown Sun.

PLANETARY TREMORS: 'Great Earthquake' Likely to Rock India, Warns Expert?!

May 02, 2013 - INDIA A great earthquake of magnitude greater than 8 on the Richter scale is likely to rock India in the next few years though the epicentre cannot be predicted, scientists warn.

The Deccan Plateau and the southern region of the country, situated relatively in the middle of the plate, may witness an earthquake of maximum 6.5 magnitude, says RK Chadha, chief scientist (seismology) at the National Geophysical Research Institute here. However, the expert cannot precisely say when it will hit the southern region.

His warning comes on a day when an earthquake shook north India, killing two persons and injuring 69, 32 of them students, in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday.

“The reason that there was greater loss due to even a 6.3 magnitude quake in Latur was the high population density in the region of the mainland as compared to the Himalayan region,” he explains.

The predictions are based on a periodicity of 15-year duration during which seismic activities are high.

“Basing on the data of the last 100 years, eight major quakes occurred between 1905 and 1920, a pattern which was repeated in the 1950-1965 period, including the world’s largest recorded earthquake of magnitude 9.5 in Chile. It has also been observed that since 2004 six great quakes have occurred globally. There is a likelihood that over the next five years another quake or two of magnitude greater than 8.5 will occur,” says Dr Chadha.

However, it is not possible to predict the location of the great earthquake which possibly could occur anywhere in the world. “The major earthquakes occur at the points of contact between two tectonic plates.

The Himalayan region forms the contact point between the Indian and Eurasian plate and is therefore a region of high seismic activity. This stretches from the Himalayas to Nepal, Arunachal Pradesh till Burma. The earthquake on May 1 is a result of high seismic activity and movements in the plates,” he explains. - Indian Express.

4 Quakes in Two Weeks - Are We Headed for Disaster?
Wednesday's earthquake, which rocked parts of north India, was the fourth in a series of temblors that have been rocking the country since April 16.

Unlike the other three before which originated in Iran, Afghanistan-Pakistan border and India's north-east, this one's epicentre was closer to home in Kishtwar in Jammu and Kashmir. Where will it strike next?

The last quake hit on April 24. Like Wednesday's earthquake, it measured 5.7 on the Richter scale and its epicentre was in the Hindu Kush ranges off Afghanistan. Parts of north India also felt the tremors.

But the big one was on April 16 -- 7.8 on the Richter scale-- that struck in the Pakistan-Iran region and -- even shook up Delhi. The same day, another earthquake measuring 4.6 on the Richter scale hit the northeastern states killing one boy. The epicentre was in Assam's Darrang district.

In between, on April 20, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake quake killed nearly 200 people in China's Sichuan province. The quake has impacted at least 1.99 million people in Sichuan. The city of Ya'an alone reported 173 deaths.

The April 16 quake had killed over 40 people in Iran and 35 in Pakistan and destroyed hundreds of houses and shaking buildings as far away as in the UAE while the April 24 temblor led to the death of least 33 people in Afghanistan's east and also triggered flash floods. - India Today.

2 Killed, 69 Injured In Northern India Earthquake.
At least two people have been killed and 69 others wounded after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit northern India.

The moderate quake struck along the border of the states of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh on Wednesday, and sent people rushing into the streets in panic.

The Indian Meteorological Department says the epicenter of the quake was located some 450 kilometers (280 miles) north of the Indian capital New Delhi.

At least 32 students were reportedly among the injured.

The earthquake, which triggered landslides, has caused damage to several schools and buildings in the twin districts of Kishtwar and Doda in the Jammu region of the Indian-administered Kashmir.

The quake has also been felt in the states of Punjab and Haryana. - IIT.